The great cinematic love stories Titanic, Doctor Zhivago, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have found a lot of love from Oscar. But there is another cinematic union, just as passionate, that is vital to the well being of the annual Academy Awards ceremony.
You cant underestimate the importance of the relationship between fashion designer and actress, says former Vogue features editor Bronwyn Cosgrave. In the golden age of Hollywood, the actresses and studio costume designers often bonded, and you had beautiful women wearing spectacular gowns made for them by designers who truly understood their bodies.
Cosgrave, who also contributes to the UK editions of Harpers Bazaar and House & Garden, researched the sartorial love affairs between couturiers and actresses in her book Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards. Most of what is spoken and written about Oscar fashion tends to be confined to venomous quips by comedians with a fondness for plastic surgery. Cosgraves book tells the stories behind some of the most important dresses in Oscar history, and the relationships that led to them.
Paramount Pictures head costume designer Edith Head sketched at a prolific level for the studios big-budget films, but she also designed Oscar apparel for Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, and Janet Leigh. Cosgrave says Heads blue satin dress for Kellys appearance at the 1955 Oscars was one of the most influential dresses in Oscar history thanks to a material chosen to perfectly match Kellys crystal blue eyes.
Other dresses that Cosgrave ranks high in Oscar history are Olivia de Havillands 1949 black-eyed Susan dress, which signaled the end of subdued World War II Oscar attire; Faye Dunaways 1967 Theodora Van Runkle, hippie chic dress; and Elizabeth Taylors stunning Dior dress at the 1959 Oscars. Cosgrave even has a place in her heart for Chers 1986 midriff-bearing Bob Mackie dress.
Cher was a trailblazer, she says. Her ensemble may not have been to everyones taste, but to this day people are still talking about it.